Elusive, secretive birds often are the most satisfying to discover, and for me the black-billed cuckoo ranks near the top. Hearing a bird is usually the best way to find it, but attentive ears are needed to detect this cuckoo's song: a subtle, slow and hollow-sounding "cucucu – cucucucu." The song in no way resembles the bold double notes of a cuckoo clock that mimic the song of the common cuckoo, a species that nests across Europe and Asia.
The twinkling fireflies of a summer night bring a little magic. If we think beyond the twinkling, we probably realize it is courtship in progress: the signals of males and females.
There are a couple dozen firefly species in New England, each with a unique series of flashes, from males in flight to females perched below. Beyond the magic, very few people have knowledge of the medical benefits as well: the use of a firefly's light-producing chemicals in bioluminescent imaging.
One of the rituals I shared with my children when they were growing up was stalking woodcocks during their spring courtship display. I guess I was sort of emulating a hero of mine named Aldo Leopold.
At twilight on April evenings, the woodcocks perform what naturalist Aldo Leopold described as "The Sky Dance" in an essay of the same title from his book A Sand Country Almanac, it's a sort of Bible for conservationists.
The "fisher cat": ferocious predator of house cats whose bloodcurdling screams pierce the dark of night. Facts about this one wildlife species have mutated a long way into fiction. For starters, fishers are members of the weasel family—not feline. Properly referred to, they're "fishers," not "fisher cats."
As the year draws to a close, it's a great time to reflect on Rachel Carson's Silent Springonce more. 2012 marks the books 50th anniversary. The book encouraged many young naturalists and, with the holidays approaching, we've come up with two gifts to further one's love of nature: a pair of binoculars and a bird guide.
According to the National Christmas Tree Growers Association, buying a natural, farm-grown Christmas tree is a traditional custom for up to 30 million American families who celebrate the holidays with the fragrance and beauty of locally-raised, farm-grown Christmas trees. Today, the majority of Christmas trees are plantation-grown. There are an estimated 350 million Christmas trees growing nationwide.
Generations ago, when people lived closer to the natural world, more outdoors than in, mild October days were called "bluebird weather. "The eastern bluebirds' gentle, quizzical notes were familiar and their distinctive habits recognized. A bluebird family remains together this time of year when most other bird species disperse. They favor field or open habitat, and typically perch on branches at field edge when they feed. Family members take turns dropping down to the ground then return to perch, one after another, most likely in pursuit of grasshopper or cricket.